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Speech Deputy Prime Minister's speech at event marking 100 years of stainless steel

Inquiries : 4 - 2013-9-24 15:35:28

Speech Deputy Prime Minister's speech at event marking 100 years of stainless steel


The Deputy Prime Minister spoke at an event marking 100 years of stainless steel and announced the creation of the Local Growth Committee. Originally given at Sheffield. This is the text of the speech as drafted, which may differ slightly from the delivered version.

¡°Tonight, we¡¯re here to celebrate Harry Brearley¡¯s achievements and the industry he revolutionised: steel. And to commit ourselves to the future success of the people and industries of Sheffield, Yorkshire and Humber. I¡¯m here not only as the Deputy Prime Minister and a local Sheffield MP, but also an enthusiastic customer of the Ecclesall Road Sheffield Steel Shop. When I¡¯m on foreign visits, it¡¯s a rite of passage for members of my team to travel with a pewter bowl stuffed in their bag to present to local dignitaries. I hesitate to call myself the shop¡¯s most frequent customer, but they have offered me a loyalty card.¡±

Sheffield was built by steel for steel. More than a job, steel was a way of life here. Its importance ingrained in the bricks of the workers terraces, its mills dominating the city¡¯s skyline; and every generation following the last into the works, the steel they made sold around the world.

Asked what made a good steel man, Mr Harry argued that ¡°Brainy distinction between good and ill. We can still see that drive in Sheffield¡¯s entrepreneurs today as they work to grow, export and create jobs in high value sectors, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, bio-medical technologies, digital media, the creative industries and so on. You could argue that, as a Sheffield MP, I¡¯m biased. But what I know of this city and its people is what makes me so optimistic about Britain¡¯s future.¡±

It, perhaps, feels counterintuitive to argue that a powerhouse of the last industrial revolution could help drive the next. But tonight I want to talk about how Sheffield, and Britain¡¯s other cities, can realize their global ambitions by drawing on their great industrial traditions. It¡¯s about giving cities like this the freedom and power back to unleash the enterprise and drive that made them so great in the past.

Memories of the failures of the 1970s picking winners industrial policy run deep in Whitehall.

Through the 80s and part of the 90s that led to a policy of managed decline, government felt it had to be passive towards industry, rather than active. It took a laissez faire approach: with our great industries left to sink or swim.

That started to change under the previous government: they were more ambitious for our cities. Peter Mandelson in particular started to have a longer term view of our industrial needs. But they still didn¡¯t go far enough to really let our great cities stand on their own two feet. The approach remained lop sided and did not provide substantive long term industrial strategies to many of our industries.

National growth was driven by one city, London and one sector: financial services. Square Mile tax receipts were recycled and redistributed to other parts of the country through the long arm of the state, in turn, providing an illusion of sustainable growth in places like South Yorkshire where public sector employment increased dramatically.

But it was an increase which could no longer be sustained when the tax receipts from the City down south dried up in the crash of 2008. Worse still, some places become so dependent on these transfers from Whitehall during the boom years that they neglected to diversify their own local economies.

Instead of helping our cities to become more economically self sufficient, instead of helping tap their potential as engines of this nation¡¯s prosperity, they presumed we could all live off London¡¯s financial services forever.

And that imbalance in our economy that dependency and wasted potential in our cities meant that when the 2008 crash came, we took a bigger fall and we found it harder to pick ourselves up.

So we need to rebalance our economy: drawing on the strengths and talents of our cities and industries.

In Sheffield alone, we already employ 95,000 people in advanced manufacturing, contributing GBP 3.5 billion to our national wealth. We must now magnify and replicate that success.

There are 3 ingredients to that our people, our know-how and our long term vision for growth, shifting our sights to the horizon.